White Sox GM Hahn sticking with his instincts
With eye on competing in AL Central, club anticipates buying, not selling in '13
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The word "rebuild" might as well be four letters long where the White Sox are concerned, because it has that sort of profane connotation to the organization.
Replenish? For certain.
But a full-gutting youth movement doesn't stand in the plans for a team with its sights set on the 2013 postseason.
Those unwavering feelings don't preclude general manager Rick Hahn from trying to enhance the upcoming season's best-case scenario while preparing for a possible -- but unexpected -- in-season downturn.
"The bulk of my focus, the bulk of our pro scouts' focus right now and their marching orders coming June and July, are pieces to add," said Hahn during a Monday conversation with MLB.com. "What we feel we are potentially going to need.
"That changes over injury and performance over the next few months. As we sit here today, we conceivably think we will need X, Y and Z. That's where our focus is on adding and what pieces that are going to fit to take us to the next level.
"Certainly we still do the coverage of the mid- or lower-level prospects, the type you traditionally acquire should you have to unload or sell at the [Trade] Deadline," Hahn said. "Our focus is going to be on adding not selling, hopefully, and we are going to be prepared should we have to shift gears and head down that path."
In looking at the White Sox from a competitive-assessment standpoint -- beyond the 25-man roster set to challenge the Tigers, Royals, Indians and Twins in the American League Central starting April 1 -- Hahn prefers to take more than a one-year view. And to be honest, he has to like what's in sight.
A tried-and-true philosophy for the White Sox since Ken Williams took over as general manager has been to find that perfect mix of veterans and youth so that the roster doesn't get too old or stagnant.
While the White Sox won't be infusing a handful of young players into this year's squad, they received answers in the affirmative in regard to contributions from an important 2012 core comprised in part by left-handed starter Chris Sale, power-packed left fielder Dayan Viciedo and late-inning relievers Nate Jones and Addison Reed.
One year ago, they were talented but unproven commodities in their specific big league roles. Now, they are key present contributors, benefiting from that season of near-playoff-intensity baseball.
Behind that crew sits the growing next wave of talent. It's up to outfielder Jared Mitchell, infielder Carlos Sanchez and pitchers such as Erik Johnson and Simon Castro to build on what they've learned in Spring Training, to the point where they could help the White Sox next season or even this year at midseason.
Often times, the best boost for a contending team can come from within. See Bobby Jenks in 2005.
"We certainly like where we are from a depth standpoint in the organization," Hahn said. "[White Sox director of amateur scouting] Doug Laumann and his staff have had a very strong couple of Drafts that have increased our depth.
"Sale rocketed through the system, [Gordon] Beckham rocketed through the system and we haven't had guys on that path. But we've had broader depth both in the outfield and in the pitching. You start to add to that to what [special assistant to the general manager] Marco Paddy and his staff have been able to do internationally, and even a layer below the players I mentioned, we are starting to see another core coming up behind them."
Having this sort of talent also can be used as pieces to acquire players from other teams to keep the White Sox competitive. In 2012 alone, the White Sox added third baseman Kevin Youkilis, late-inning reliever Brett Myers and left-handed starter Francisco Liriano via trade and only gave up Eduardo Escobar in those deals from their future plans.
Just because the White Sox aren't credited with a top-ranked Minor League system -- or one ranked in the top half, for that matter -- doesn't mean they don't have viable options. Those options could supplant veterans if the White Sox somehow fall out of contention or decided to trade off more experienced parts.
Possible but not at all probable, according to Hahn.
"You have to be at least aware of where you are in sort of the competitive cycle and be realistic about your chances to win this year and in the future," Hahn said. "So is it conceivable that at some point, we view it that we are past this team's course or past its competitive life, that we need to take a step back and add to the younger core? Sure. But that's not something we anticipate happening any time soon."
With a little more than two weeks left in Arizona, Hahn's biggest interest falls under the category of getting fully prepared for the season.
"Obviously it's a very long spring, and two-thirds of our outfield isn't here," said Hahn, referring to center fielder Alejandro De Aza and right fielder Alex Rios, with the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, respectively, at the World Baseball Classic. "So it's a little tough to get in that true rhythm of seeing the team play and the team play well.
"There's a lot thus far in camp to be excited about, both from a health standpoint as well as progress on some of our young guys standpoint. I'm ready to get the team all together for that last week or 10 days and get ready for the season."